Monday, November 9, 2015

Reading with a Pen

If you're anything like me you are a devourer of books. No book is safe from me...except I'm learning how many books are out there, and it's making me mourn the hours that I'm not reading. Anyways, I'm not saying that I don't carefully read books because I do. I occasionally skip through description to dialogue, but I always make myself go back and read. However, I've never been one to annotate in my books. They are my treasures, and I want them to look the part. Plus, I don't want to slow down during exciting scenes to underline.
I'm in a literary analysis class this semester, and my professor is amazing. He's so passionate and loves the material so much that it makes class very enjoyable. However, he makes us annotate, something I wasn't very keen on until about a month ago. It's laborious, awkward and time consuming. But as we were reading The Scarlet Letter (my second time), I realized how valuable annotating is. I noticed so much more, made so many more connections, and drew a lot of intelligent-sounding conclusions.
Now, if you're a generally well read person who can say that they've gotten through at least one classic novel, you understand that there is a significant difference between classic novels and modern novels. As we learn all through high school and well into college, authors that are considered timeless can be interpreted in so many different ways. They fill their novels with all these different biblical and historical allusions that you have to really close read to completely grab hold of. When you read classics, a pen can come in real handy. I'm planning on going back and reading some of my favorites again and taking notes. Jane Eyre, round three!
So obviously, you can see the positive purpose of reading with a pen, but you might be asking: why would you annotate in a recently-published YA book? I mean, I tried annotating in a new book the way I did with The Scarlet Letter, and I just felt stupid. If we're being honest, you don't have to deconstruct every word that modern authors choose. Allusions are not as common in modern novels. Modern authors are more of storytellers than they planners of every single word. However, I still think reading with a pen has its benefits. I always find myself saying, "Ooo, I like that quote," and then completely forgetting about it and continuing to read. Then when I want to go back to find it, I can't. And that's just frustrating. So I've started reading with a pen. I don't try to dissect the novel because that makes my brain hurt too often. But I can underline my favorite quotes, note something that connects to another book, or just make comments.
So moral of the story, read with a pen. Just try it. Once. For me. It might not work for you, but if it does, you'll be able to look back in your books years from now and say, "Oh, wow--this is a really great line!" or "wow, I had some good thoughts when I was 19."

Let me know what you think!!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Southern Festival of Books Day 2

While today was much shorter than Saturday, today was still great! I started with breakfast at Puckett's with the very talented Kathryn Holmes and ended the day with her panel. However, I'll start with listing the authors that I had the pleasure of hearing today:

  • Lori Goldstein, author of Becoming Jinn, and the sequel Circle of Jinn will release May 17th. Her novels reinvent our idea of wish granting genies and the middle eastern culture that it stems from. Her story was inspired by a devastating earth quake in the Middle East and the picture of a mother and baby, named Azra being rescued. Azra, the main character in her novel, comes from the rescued baby. 
  • Martina Boone, author of Compulsion and the sequel Persuasion will hit the shelves this month (so watch out)! Her novels are southern gothic with a main character who is an innocent outsider on a haunted South Carolina plantation. 
  • Helene Dunbar, author of What Remains and These Gentle Wounds, her books are known to make people cry wherever they are, whether that be curled up in bed or on a very public train. After suffering a tragedy herself, most of her work reflects tragedy that young adults experience.
  • Kathryn Holmes, debut author of The Distance Between Lost and Found wrote her first novel about an area very near to her hear, The Great Smokey Mountains in East Tennessee. The story centers around youth culture and a life changing moment for her main character, Hallelujah. 
All of these authors were so interesting to listen to and had the best things to say about writing and the literary world in general. 

Lori and Martina's panel dealt with magic in YA fiction. Magic is an important element in fiction that, while some people believe may be going out of style, helps us to see our world in a new light. Magic must be grounded in the familiar, but the job of the writers is to give the magic something new. However, one can't run rampant with the magic. You have to have limits and rules or the magical aspect of the story will just seem careless and misplaced. In response to magic in YA going out of style, Martina Boone responded with "The best books create their trends." So as long as you write a kick butt magical book, it doesn't matter who's popular at the moment. 

Helene and Kathryn's panel dealt with complex emotions in YA realistic fiction. For some reason, their moderator seemed to be under the impression that complex emotions such as anger, jealousy, and grief were not emotions for young adults, but for adults--his premise being that young adults do not know how to deal with these emotions. But Kathryn and Helene had the perfect responses. "What happens to  you as a teen influences you for the rest of your life. And you'd real with emotions differently as a teenager," Helene said. "It is almost easier to deal with intense emotions in YA rather than in adult fiction because it doesn't have to be rationalized." Kathryn said "Emotions are heightened in adolescence because it is a time of firsts. So to write for young adults, you have to go to that raw, irrational part of your brain." Forget adult fiction (not that I want to, because it's great) but if you want plain storytelling, pick up a YA read.

Priceless advice from the authors:

"Take as much time as you can with the first book. It's a marathon, not a sprint." ~Martina Boone
"Sometimes characters drive the story." ~Helene Dunbar
"If you don't have them by the first few pages, you don't have them." ~Kathryn Holmes
"Why can't boys read about girls having feelings?" ~Kathryn Holmes
"Find out what your trolls are and dont' go there." ~Kathryn Holmes 

Again, I highly encourage you to check out these author's books! I especially support Kathryn since we are from the same alma mater, and she's just an all around awesome person! 

And that brings the 27th annual Southern Festival of Books. Next book festival on my list? Yallfest 2015 in Charleston! Can't wait until November! 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

27th Annual Southern Festival of Books--Day 1

Oh, there's so much to say in so little time! Today was beyond amazing, filled with inspiring authors, encouraging panels, and LOTS of books. So first of all, I'll list off all the authors that I had the pleasure of hearing today.

  • CJ Redwine, author of the Defiance trilogy. Her newest book--the Shadow Queen--is a modern retelling of Snow White and will be released in February. 
  • Courtney C. Stevens, author of Faking Normal. Her newest book, The Lies about truth, started off with the question "is there such a thing as a good lie?" and will be released November 3rd. 
  • Kristin O'Donnell Tubb, author of the 13th Sign, is working on a mass project with under which she and several other authors take on the pseudonym of E. F. Abbot to write historical fiction biographies of amazing historical people who's stories need to be told. Her story, about a little drummer boy in the Civil War, will be released in February. 
  • Jeff Zentner, debut author of The Scorpion King, releases his first book in March. The Scorpion King is based in rural Tennessee and centers around three very different friends, one of whom is the son of a disgraced Pentecostal snake-handling pastor. The three of these friends must find strength in their outcast status together. 
  • Lindsey Lane, author of Snuggle Mountain and her first YA novel, Evidence of Things Not Seen, which is told in the form of interconnected short stories fitting together with the disappearance of a physics nerd from the local high school. 
  • Moriah McStay, author of Everything that Makes You, a novel exploring the reality and alternate reality of a girl who endures a horrible accident. Readers see how Fiona's (known as Fi in this other reality) life would be different if she had not been "the girl in the accident." 
  • Cammie McGovern, author of Say What You Will and most recently A Step Towards Falling. Both of these books are told from the point of view young adults with mental of developmental disabilities. 
  • Julie Murphy, author of Side Effects May Vary and most recently Dumplin. Both of these books endure travesty and confusion and have to bounce back and learn how to live life right again. 
  • Martha Brockenbrough, author of Devine Intervention and most recently The Game of Love and Death, in which she throws in a surprising twist. Love is the male character, and Death is the female character.
  • Erin Bow, physicist turned author of Plain Kate, Sorrow's Knot and very recently, The Scorpion Rules, a post apocalyptic novel in which six royal children are sacrificed every year to keep global peace that is enforced by a robot overlord. 
So, I met ten amazing authors today. They are barely a fraction of the total authors that speak at the festival. The authors spoke on everything from their own favorite books to the nitty gritty details of their varying writing processes. They were so engaging, friendly, funny, and vivacious, a true pleasure to listen to. 

I don't want you to grow bored with such a lengthy post, but I just want to share a few quotes that really stuck with me today, some funny and some very useful and encouraging. So don't go anywhere:
"We put too much focus asking kids what they want to be when they grow up. We should be asking them, what do you want to be right now?" ~Kristin Tubb
"Throwing away pages is a mark of professionalism." ~Courtney Stevens
"Fail upward." ~Jeff Zentner
"It is so, so important to read both inside and outside of your genre." ~Lindsey Lane
"Let your kinds find their way to their books." ~Cammie McGovern
"Characters are the funniest when they're not trying to be funny." ~Cammie McGovern
"Even in the most serious moments, life is absurd." ~Julie Murphy
"If you're gonna create a world, create a freakin world!" ~Martha Brockenbrough
"Reading is a great way to experience choices." ~Sharon Cameron
"When things slow down, a dragon can land on the roof." ~Erin Bow

I could say so much more about today, but I'll cut myself off there! I highly encourage you to check out ALL these authors and buy ALL their books. Stay in tuned for tomorrow! 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Weekend #4: Maroon 5 in NashVegas

"I drove for miles and miles and wound up at your door."

What door, might you ask? Why, the door to the Bridgestone arena of course. For what, you may ask? Why, for the Maroon 5 concert of course!!!!!!
Yes that's right. This weekend, I had the rare ability of checking something off my bucket list...Maroon 5. I can't even begin to describe to you how amazing of a concert this was. Even though our seats were not phenomenal (we weren't in the nose bleeds but the air was still pretty thin), Adam Levin just blew me away.
Magic! opened for them, and I was completely blown away by the band. I mean, I've heard the song "Rude," and it was okay the first few times, but their other songs are pretty great too. You should definitely check them out. They got the atmosphere and the energy ready for the main performance, my man crush forever and always--Adam Levine.
The air was absolutely ELECTRIC. I could feel the beat in my chest, hear the words all the way to the very center of my core. Even though I was snapping pictures and taking very poor sound quality videos, this concert was an experience. Dare I say this was one of the best concerts I have ever been to. Maroon 5 knows how to perform. Their stage jutted out into the audience in a giant, illuminate arrow. Adam teased the crowd until his second act by never quite coming out to the tip of the arrow, only staying on the long stretch.
Highlights: They opened with "Animals." Adam Levine played a neon green guitar and a neon pink guitar (Adam Levine can play guitar). The band sang the first part of "Payphone"  a cappella, and it gave me chill bumps, literal chill bumps. They performed "Sunday Morning" and "Harder to Breathe." In the second act, he made everybody put their cell phones and cameras away for the three minutes of "She Will Be Loved." He actually waited for every last person in his sight to put their phones away. There were idiots right in front of him who continued to hold their phones up, even after he asked politely. That's when he got sassy. (I think I'm in love). Then he closed with "Sugar."
All the concerts I have been to in my life were practice for this moment. I have never screamed so much in my entire life. My voice got to a point where I could only scream at an extremely high pitch, which was quite a shock to one of my friends.
I don't know how to convey how amazing of a concert it was. I can only strongly encourage you, if the opportunity every presents itself, to go to one of their concerts before its too late. The concert was over way too soon, and I was left with an empty hole in my chest and the lyrics to "Sugar" spinning around in my head.
The weekend wasn't just about Maroon 5 though--it was a girls weekend. We treated ourselves to a hotel along with some excellent food. FYI, Sonic has excellent half priced milk shakes at midnight. Try the oreo chocolate. We got to go shopping in Cool Springs Mall, eat DELICIOUS burgers at Burger Up (despite the long wait and the misadventure at The Pharmacy and their 1 hour long wait). 12th Avenue is also a great shopping venue with lots of cute, somewhat expensive boutiques, but, hey...its always fun to look. Sweet CeCe's is a great frozen yogurt place, however, I don't recommend BoneFish Grill's basil pasta... a little heavy on the olive. You may be asking why we went to a chain restaurant when we were in Nashville for Heaven's sake. Very simple. It was Nashville on a Saturday night. Literally anywhere that took reservations was booked solid and anywhere that didn't take reservations had lines out the door. I'd rather eat than starve thank you very much.
But best of all was this morning for breakfast/brunch. If you haven't tried it, you must--The Pfunky Griddle. It's an all you can eat pancake bar where they plant the pancake griddle right in the middle of your table and you choose your pancake toppings. Plus they have great cinnamon hazelnut mochas. It's adorable and you should most certainly try it--I insist.
Overall, a pretty great girls weekend, but I must say, Adam Levine can crash my girls' weekend any time he darn well pleases! "Sugar! Yes Please! Won't you come and put it down on me!"

The Bridge Stone
Pfunky Griddle

My Chocolate Chip and Fruit Mickey Mouse

Monday, February 23, 2015

Weekend #3: CRU Formal

Let me just start out...I love to dance. Not all that disgusting "sex on the dance floor" that happens at prom or any other high school function. I like dancing...moving my hips, jumping around, doing the lawn mower, the lightbulb, the disco, the cha cha slide. You name it. And naturally at college, I miss dancing because let's face it, a girl can only have so many solo dance parties before they lose their magic.
This organization that I have become involved in on campus called CRU hosted a formal on Friday night. CRU is a nondenominational christian ministry that provides a service on Thursday evenings and bible studies based on your residence hall. Just for those of you that haven't heard of CRU. It's pretty cool...I kinda like it :)
So, as with most other school functions, I attended the dance stag with my girl friends. We had dinner at this great restaurant in Chatt called Big River Grill, and as we were sitting at dinner, snow began to fall. Let me hasn't actually snowed in Chattanooga all winter. Tennessee was in a winter advisory, and this horribly weather somehow MISSED Chattanooga. I don't know how. Chatt just lives in its own bubble I guess.
But the snow was absolutely gorgeous--the nice powdery stuff that just floats out of the sky. First it just began to cover the sidewalks, then dusted the sides of the roads. By the time we left for the formal, the roads were completely covered. Everyone stood outside taking gorgeous pictures in the snow. Better than any spring prom pictures in my opinion.
And the night was just perfect--dancing (not grinding or twerking), and I mean everyone was dancing.The music was great, despite the fact that they wouldn't let my roommate and me request our song--Fergalicious. But it's okay. We're not bitter.
I'm lucky--I had a good prom experience. But there are some who are less fortunate...who couldn't afford it, or just had the most unfortunate of luck at that time. The Hollywood CRU Formal was a prom redo, for one particular girl in my bible study, and I am so happy I got to see her at her Prom Redo. Plus she's a pretty spectacular dancer.
God always gives second chances, even if they are for materialistic things like proms. Doesn't really matter. He wasn't giving people another thing. He was giving them, me, another memory. I love my memories, and I'm so grateful that I've had the chance to collect so many great ones in less than a year.
Alright...two more weekends to go! Stay tuned!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday the 13th: The Adventure of Misadventures

Misadventure (n.) - an unfortunate incident, a mishap.

You could say I had a few misadventures tonight. But you know me, I'm one to turn a misadventure into an adventure. And that's exactly what my friends and I experienced tonight.

For those of you unaware of this weekend's reason for being excited, for including the weekend of Friday the 13th in my countdown, tonight was going to be my third annual WinterJam experience. But this wasn't going to be just any WinterJam--I was going to have the blessing of seeing Skillet live! This may not be a big deal to some of you, but to me, Skillet is the big time, someone I'd pay to see in concert apart from WinterJam. So two of my friends and I had plans to go to WinterJam. We left earlier than last year since we didn't want to sit behind the stage again.

The night's misadventures all started with a wrong turn. We didn't want to turn onto Pellissippi. We were going to Neyland. But somehow, we turned onto the wrong highway. By the time we got back on the right track, Thompson Bowling arena was filling to the max. An hour before the awaited concert, we arrived in one lane, standstill traffic. And waited...for another fifty minutes. By the time we got to the building and jumped out of the car, Thompson Bowling was filled to the max--no more concert go-ers permitted. No Skillet for me.

The idea was foreign, could this arena, the arena used for Lady Vol basketball and so many other HUGE full? Well, one thing's for sure. God's not dead, and his children wanted to sing his praises tonight...we just weren't one of the lucky thousands.

So, plan B) Bowling. I mean, I have tendinitis in my wrist and a bruised ankle, but hey...I'll learn to bowl with my left hand, right? Wrong. As we walked into the bowling arena from the full parking lot, we realized we weren't going to be bowling tonight. "Forty-five minute wait," the guy said. "We have lives to live," Olivia said. And we were out the door.

Plan C) Movie then dessert. Great plan--Kingsmen is playing in twenty minutes. Let's go. Again, we are dropped at the door. We wait in line, because come on, it's valentine's weekend. Get up to the counter. "Can I see your ID?" the girl asks my friend. She pulls out her wallet, and the girl shakes her head, looking at the other two of us. "All of your IDs." Well, me in my absent-minded ignorance, left my wallet at home. "You have to be 21." Since WHEN do you have to be 21 to see an R movie? Never! We wait for my friend's mom to come and buy the tickets, but the girl calls us back over. "It's going to be sold out--there's no way you're going to get seats together." I'm convinced she had a personal vendetta against us, despite the ridiculousness of the idea. And just to top it off, we ran into a rather unpleasant face from high school...perfect...just perfect.

Okay, plan D) get dessert then rent a movie for home. Good. We go to the Olive Garden in Turkey Creek, because who doesn't want a dessert from Olive Garden, right? "45-50 minute wait," the hostess says. We're out the door before she can finish. So we settle for the Olive Garden in good Ole Maryville, the Olive Garden with no wait, good service, and delicious desserts.

So on to Hastings we go, searching vigilantly for The Best of Me, because what else are we going to watch on Valentine's eve except Nicholas Sparks. Let's be honest here. Search and Best of Me for rental. Okay, we'll buy it. Grab the movie and head out. Half way home, after removing the stickers, we realize something...we bought a blu-ray...we don't have a blu-ray player. I'm going to be honest, I'm about ready to cry as we turn back around. We CANNOT catch a break.

Fast forward another thirty minutes. We've finally made it home, curled up under blankets on pillows together, watching as James Marsden charms us all with his beautiful ruggedness and gorgeous smile.  I know we're all thinking about the misadventures we've had tonight. People ask us what we did tonight. Better question: what didn't we do tonight? WinterJam, bowling, see the Kingsmen, wait 45 minutes for dessert, rent a movie. Now who can say they didn't do all that in a matter of five hours. Yes, we drove for nearly five hours tonight. Just think about that for a second: five hours in a car, and nearly nothing accomplished.

But it was an adventure. Yes there were mishaps--unfortunate mishaps. Doesn't matter. I got to spend the night with a few of my favorite people, watched a good yet predictable movie, and spent the first few moment of Galentine's day with my gal pals. What better way to spend Friday the 13th? I couldn't have asked for a better adventure of misadventures. I highly recommend a misadventure sometime--you never know what will come of it.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Weekend Countdown: #1

Happy 19th birthday to me! I'm in my last teen year--very strange to think about. There's four very important birthdays in a young woman's life:
            1. 13--the year everything begins to change
            2. 16--the year everything becomes better
            3. 18--the year everything becomes real
            4. 21--the year of infinite moments.
But everyone seems to forget about 19--the in between year. This year does not mark me as a voter or a legal cigarette buyer (not that I want to buy cigarettes, it's just legal now). I cannot buy alcohol yet or rent a car. I'm just nineteen. And I feel like this is supposed to mean something, but as of right now, it really doesn't. Today was just a day of celebration, a day that reminded how amazing my friends and family are. I am so very blessed to have so many people who care about me, or at least acknowledge me. And that's all that matters at this point in my life.
Normally, I would be writing this entry in my journal--the next year in the line of successive years that are to come. However, my slightly unforgiving wrist issues are impeding me from writing vast amounts. Yes, these two measly paragraphs constitute as vast for my wrist.
However, here I am sharing my birthday thoughts with the internet. It's not like I have extremely deep thoughts. In fact, my thoughts are very commonplace. I am surrounded by friends and family who astound me with the thoughts that pop into their minds on a daily basis. I wish my mind would think like that--be funny, or witty, or just inventive all the time. But then again, that sounds very exhausting.
I understand that these paragraphs seem very choppy and disconnected. They are. I could go back in and edit them, but then I would not succeed in being honest to my train of thought. My own thoughts are exhausting enough, I don't need to be funny, witty or inventive all the time. I have my own mind to deal with.
Anyway, back to birthday thoughts, since that is what this entry is about, correct? I haven't lost you have I? It's okay if I have. I lose myself occasionally.
So this weekend--the 19th birthday weekend--is the kickoff of my five weekends of thrill. I can't tell you what the next four weekends have in store. You're just going to have to find out for yourself. A grueling practice, I'm sure. I've loved this weekend so far--I've spent time with my family, had some pretty excellent food, seen my older "sister" (you know who you are), gotten to lounge with my dogs, and this is just the first day. Tomorrow--more family, friends, and PAINTING! I may or may not post pictures depending on how horribly my picture turns out to be. Sunday I'll be back on the road to Chatt for a joint-birthday celebration! The weekend is just starting, but it's going to be great.
I always expect the world for my birthday, which I know is a detrimental practice. But I love birthdays, and I always have this silly notion that something magical is going to happen, though it rarely does. Normally, when I build my sights so high, I'm torn to shreds when my fantasy doesn't become reality. But for my birthdays, I've learned that my fantasies can stay fantasies. Reality proves just as great (for the most part).
I don't really have anything else wise to say--I'm not even sure that I've said a wise word in my entire life. Maybe nineteen will prove this to be a new experience. Who knows? Skies the limit, right?